We Are All Guilty of Tribalism

Source: Dawn/AFP

You can’t help suppressing your anger when seeing hypocrisies such as the concern for the Rohingyas abroad but no love for the Hazaras and Shias locally, and outrage at Israel bombing Gaza, but silence on Saudi air strikes on Yemen, but is any of this surprising in the least bit?

As a matter of fact, you can easily see where they are coming from. The fact of the matter is that we are all guilty of tribalism one way or another.

You hardly notice any outcry when Muslims are massacring other Muslims, but our nation becomes totally protective and defensive when a third party is involved, such as India, Israel or the United States. When that happens, the problem immediately becomes an Ummah problem, and Muslims are lamented to be the perpetual victims.

It’s the same kind of tribalism that united the world against aliens in the hypothetical scenario in the movie The Independence Day, and it is more common than you think it is. After all, non-Muslims are sort of aliens to the Ummah.

Whether it is our reaction to the positions of the leaders and political parties we support, or an issue that we conveniently want to ignore, we choose what to speak out about. And also what to be upset about.

And how could we not?

What sort of a person remains perpetually outraged at every damn single thing on this planet?

I know the walls of many of your facebook and twitter friends look like that. I guess to a great extent my wall looks like that. But still that is not actually the case.

The simple fact of the matter is that we just don’t get upset at everything, at least not as much as we do on others. Because most of the time we would conveniently overlook any problems or wrongdoings from a party that shares our political cause.

We may acknowledge it, but it would hardly make us abandon supporting our party or the side of the cause.

For those of us who lean toward Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif completely ignore if there were a serious power outage crisis throughout Pakistan in the recent days that the government was supposed to fix, considering that the party won a landslide for its promise to solve this very problem.  For those who support the PPP may conveniently overlook the responsibility of the government in providing emergency relief during Sindh famine and heat wave. And so on.

There certainly is no surprise if you see Democrats conveniently overlooking the drone warfare of Obama administration, or if you find Republicans ignore how torture could have been used under the Bush administration. Liberals and conservatives would both gladly overlook the problems in the administrations they support as long as their supported policies are being propelled.

You would find politically devout Sunnis failing to acknowledge the brutal Saudi authoritarianism and the politically devout Shias looking the other way when you mention the Iranian regime trampling on their citizen’s rights.

There is no limit or end to this list. It happens every day, and practically everyone is experiencing it in one way or another. Almost human nature. But it is important to take it in a healthy manner, instead of further freaking out in moralist rage and calling for everyone’s heads.

Nobody is perfect, and we cannot possibly agree with each other on everything. So instead of looking for that perfect Messiah, hell even Imran Khan is not that perfect, we have to learn to live with the people we are stuck with in this world.

To be honest, I cannot say that I am equally outraged by every piece of news of oppression and carnage, and I am not ashamed of that. I am not even sure that is something that you should feel guilty about, because it’s hard to say if even Gandhi experienced such universal human pain. Most of the time, you are going to be more upset about people emotionally closest to you. But as long as your political stance is correct, and you are not supporting any such nonsense as ISIS, I guess you can live with it.

So I do think twice before I criticize people’s support for the Rohingyas, because when we do so, we are kind of doing the same thing we accuse them of.

Though this doesn’t mean that you should stop trying changing people’s minds.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.


The Kashmir Day Post – 2011


Source: Drew Martin, logosjournal.com

Kashmir has been an area of conflict for quite some time, and has also been the most violent of regions in South Asia. While it is hard to even mention Kashmir without taking a particular political side, but to me, there is only side to take when I think of Kashmir, humanity.

Whether Kashmir is a part of India or Pakistan is none of my business, because both the countries are occupying certain parts of the region, and will continue to fight over it forever it seems. Neither would I be promoting any separatist ideas, which is something that Kashmiris on the both sides should decide for themselves.

Of course, every country was born out of a separatist movement, even India and Pakistan themselves.

Unfortunately, religious and political divisions in the sub continent are so deep that the prejudice, patriotism and nationalism cloud the vision of even the most apparently sane people who justify the use of all sorts of violence and force to achieve their political means.  At the end of the day, there is no balance in the way the Kashmir issue is perceived either in India or in Pakistan.

Of course, no Indian would approve of the idea of separatism, and rightly so, I support them in their views, but I would like them to consider that there is a boundary between political disagreement and human rights violation. But at the same time, I think it is the right of the Kashmiris to choose their own destiny. Unfortunately, the Kashmiri Muslims and Pakistanis completely fail to realize the agony of Kashmiri Pandits driven out of the state, and the Indian nationalists gladly overlook all the violence and atrocities on the local Kashmiri population blinded by nationalism.

I can thankfully say that my brain is not infected with any sort of false nationalism, patriotism or religious affiliation that could affect my ability of not disapproving a human rights violation when I see one, anywhere in the world, in Pakistan, in Kashmir or anywhere else. But the most cruel aspect to it is the brutal silence of approval and the lack of humanity in our views.

There is no use in hating the stone-pelter, for they will never stop unless they are accepted.

Pakistanis itch every year to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, some for their vested interest, others for capturing Kashmir for its resources, some out of plain hatred for India, while others in genuine solidarity and brotherhood for the oppressed. But at least some one around the world should speak for the people who are suffering out there, if only the traditional rivals.

However, I see the matter differently because to me human rights violations in Kashmir is not really an issue for Pakistan to worry about, although every nation of the world should be worried about it. I would be even more concerned about it on a political level as an Indian and would have been concerned in the very same manner as a human being despite of any affiliation with the Indian subcontinent.

I can just be thankful that I am not a Kashmiri or that I don’t live in Kashmir, and I can afford to say that living in peace, comfort and security, like many of those reading these lines. While it seems cruel, cold-hearted and insensitive to say that , it is a harsh reality.  A reality known probably to every Indian, every Pakistani, but surely to every Kashmiri. Some compare Kashmir to Gaza, which is largely incorrect, but what Kashmir has in common with Gaza is the fact that no one would like to live there. I would not, at least.

While things have thankfully calmed down in the Indian Kashmir of late, which I would hope remain that way forever, there should just be realization and recognition of the human rights violations there that have been taking place for more than two decades now, and it is brutal to even mention the statistics, most probably starting after Pakistani intervention in the state. And the Indians who do recognize that impartially are labelled as traitors. Of course, tyranny shows its face in so many ways.

But Pakistani intervention or not, it is how the Indian forces treat the locals which largely alienates them from the country, as has been the case in Balochistan in Pakistan. This is a point to ponder for you cannot govern indefinitely using brute force. India is a strong regional power and Kashmiris do not stand a chance against them anyway, but every oppression has its limits.

Why cannot India, Pakistan and Kashmiris be on the same team? (Ridiculous? I know.)

I would like India to keep Kashmir forever, since it is one of their states. I have no problems with saying that. But I would only like them to treat Kashmiris the right way.

That is the only way Kashmiris could be made to realize that India, and even Pakistan, are more concerned about the people than the land and its resources, if only that were true.


Maybe that could help them win their hearts.